Yes, pet food can be complicated. But following these simple rules will put your pet on the path to a healthy AND SAFE diet that will provide for strong bones and muscles, healthy coats and skin, and a powerful immune system to help fight illness.
1) No Protein Fillers: Avoid soy products and glutens of any kind.
Your pets need real meat protein for maximum health and strength. See# 5.
2) No Bad Fats: Such as beef tallow or the ambiguous term “animal fat”. Look for chicken fat, herring oil, sunflower oil and other quality oils; these provide both beautiful coats and excellent immune system benefits.
3) No Grain Fractions: These include all glutens (again); refined flours, bran, mill run, etc. Look for whole grains: the best will be labeled simply as “rice,” “barley,” or “oatmeal.” It’s best to avoid corn and wheat altogether, as they are the most common grain allergens. Ground whole wheat is OK in treats.
4) No Chemical Preservatives, artificial colors, or artificial flavors: BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, and propylene glycol. All are used in many commercial pet foods and treats. Instead look for foods naturally preserved with mixed tocopherols, a natural vitamin E based ingredient, for better health and safety.
5) No Rendered Animal By-Products: Avoid chicken by-product meal, or worse, ingredients that either don’t say what animal the ingredient came from, or are vague about it. A few examples are poultry by-product meal, meat by-products, and meat and bone meal. You have no idea where this stuff comes from! Look for NO BY PRODUCT chicken meal, turkey meal, and fresh meats like chicken, etc. These should be human grade, or better. For example, Menhaden fish meal is technically a human grade ingredient, but it is not something a person would eat. Ever see Menhaden on a menu?
6) Know Where Your Pet’s Food Is Made: In most, but not all circumstances, the company should manufacture their own food. If they do not own their own plant, then they don’t have total control of the process and you should be wary of inflated claims. If upon request they decline to disclose who the actual manufacturer is, then this should be a huge red flag. You would be astonished by how many so called pet food companies don’t want you to know who really makes their food. Canned products are a little different because of the limited number of canneries. Companies using private label canneries should control the process by having traceability of all ingredients and maintaining an ongoing presence at the facility. Apply the standards listed here to any food, and you will be feeding a healthy product.